Dr. Ruben Mesa Credit: Courtesy / UT Health SA

UT Health San Antonio has named Dr. Ruben Mesa as the new director of the UT Health Cancer Center. Relocating to San Antonio from Phoenix, Mesa will begin his job in August.

Dr. William Henrich, president of UT Health, told the Rivard Report that Mesa’s experience in building and organizing clinical programs and trials is what made him stand out.

“Many people who are eligible never get enrolled in clinical trials, so few [clinicians] get exposed to them,” Henrich said. “Dr. Mesa’s keen interest in this aspect of cancer research will advance our discovery and knowledge on how to to best manage cancers.”

Mesa is currently a professor of medicine and chair of the Division of Hematology & Medical Oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and deputy director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center.

San Antonio’s UT Health Cancer Center is one of only four National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in Texas, offering clinical trials and comprehensive cancer treatment to patients in 38 counties of South Texas.

Mesa has a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering and physiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He earned his medical degree and completed his medical residency in internal medicine at the Mayo Graduate School at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., where he was awarded a fellowship in hematology and medical oncology.

He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in internal medicine and medical oncology.

After 20 years of researching myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), a group of bone marrow disorders that can often lead to leukemia, Mesa is considered an expert on the subject.

He has been an investigator on 70 clinical trials for patients and has led efforts in obtaining U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for several new cancer drugs.

Henrich told the Rivard Report that “[Mesa] has a great enthusiasm for the leadership post. He’s a wonderful teacher, a superb physician, and he [built] a very prodigious stem cell transplant program at at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona.”

UT Cancer Center, formerly known as the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC), is part of UT Health San Antonio. UT Health signed a formal affiliation with health care giant MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, which is ranked as the top cancer center in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The formal partnership between the institutions will begin in the fall.

The work of the cancer center and its affiliation with MD Anderson is intended to eliminate the need for patients to travel outside of San Antonio for cancer treatment.

“The whole goal of enhancing our cancer program is to deliver first-rate cancer care – superb care – to everybody who enters our doors,” Henrich said. “We want to not only be the best at what we do we also want to make it so people don’t have to travel and be dislocated from family, friends, and their homes.”

Henrich believes that Mesa embraces this philosophy, which coupled with his extensive experience building a progressive stem cell research program in Arizona, will be an asset to UT Health as it embarks on its new affiliation with MD Anderson.

Mesa will be responsible for familiar duties, such as adhering to the requirements expected of a National Cancer Institute cancer center and determining what should be enhanced or built as UT Health grows its programs and services.

“He has existed in a culture of excellence, and he brings with him that expectation of excellence and [desire to] establish the highest standards of care,” Henrich said.

The center’s previous director was Dr. Ian Thompson. An internationally recognized urologic oncologist, Thompson retired as director at the end of 2016 and became president of Christus Santa Rosa Hospital – Medical Center at the beginning of the year.

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.